5 Aussie inventions that changed agriculture

In celebration of National Science Week Australian Farmers looked back at some of the greatest agriculture inventions and scientific breakthroughs.

We discovered that many of the inventions that revolutionised farming all over the world have their origins right here in Australia!

Here are our top 5 Aussie agriculture scientific achievements…

Grain Stripper

For our first invention we are going all the way back to 1843 in South Australia. John Ridley, a miller and wheat farmer, developed a grain harvesting machine that was able to reap and thresh more than 70 hectares of crop in seven days.

The machine was drawn by horse and cart and consisted of a comb that lifted the wheat heads which were then removed by the rotating beaters which sat behind the comb.

Mr Ridley was facing dire labour shortages at the time and his invention was obviously much more efficient than harvesting by hand.

The South Australian Agricultural and Horticultural Society recognised his achievement and awarded Mr Ridley a prize of ten pounds and ten shillings. Mr Ridley’s invention was a catalyst for the high-tech grains industry we have today.

Sketch of the original Grain stripper. Photo: Australian Food History Timeline.

Mechanical Shearing Clippers

In 1877 Frederick Wolseley, a pastoralist with a sheep station near Sydney, had had enough of shearing thousands of sheep with handheld clippers and invented the mechanical shearing clippers, serving to revolutionise the entire wool industry.

Mr Wolseley’s invention was a handpiece connected to a power source – originally driven by horsepower – but later connected to an external engine.

The invention relieved the physical strain on shearer’s hands, allowed the wool to be clipped up to three times closer to the skin and removed the wool in one fleece instead of chopping it into smaller pieces.

At the time mechanical shearing clippers horrified thousands of shearers. They feared that the machine would put them out of a job. By 1900, machine shearing was the norm and today, scientists are experimenting by automating the shearing process with robots.

Hendra Virus Vaccine

In 1994, a deadly new virus broke out in the suburb of Hendra, Queensland. A prominent horse trainer Vic Rail, his stable hand and most of their horses fell ill to the sudden mysterious illness. Within several days, Mr Rail and 14 horses were dead. This was the beginning of the now infamous Hendra virus.

The Hendra virus is a virus that infects large fruit bats and is spread to horses and then pass the infection onto humans. The disease can be fatal to any animal infected.

In 2011 the CSIRO developed a vaccine for horses called the Equicav HeV vaccine. By 2013 Australian scientists confirmed that horses were immune to the deadly exposure of the Hendra virus six months post vaccination.

Equivac HeV is a world-first commercial vaccine for a Bio-Safety Level-4 disease agent, the most dangerous level in the world.


Australian scientists realised that we increasingly consume a highly processed, low nutrient diet, so they invented a new type of barley to solve the problem.

BARLEYmax is an extra nutritious strain of barley, created by generating a specific barley grain that had just the right nutritional elements.

After isolating a particular grain of barley with a rare combination of desirable traits, the CSIRO used GM-free (genetic modification free), traditional breeding processes to harvest a crop of a super breed of barley.

Boasting four times the resistant starch and twice the dietary fibre of regular grains, the low GI supergrain is now used in a range of commercially available food products around the world.

Tank-bred tuna system

Since the 1950s the bluefin tuna, renowned for its buttery flesh commonly used for sashimi, population decreased by 90 per cent. In 2009, South Australia based company Clean Seas Tuna brought the fish species back from extinction.

The team at Clean Seas Tuna designed a tank to simulate condition in the ocean. The bluefin tuna are quite picky about the environment they wish to breed in.

Using overhead lights to suggest sun and moon, saltwater piped from the ocean, artificial currents and temperature controls, the scientists re-created the experience of a migration journey for the fish.

The successful captive breeding program was a world-first of its kind and revolutionised the aquaculture industry, providing the industry with a sustainable farming method to be used into the distant future.

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